The Rio de Janeiro Olympics saw many highs and several lows, not least of which was the controversy over the fairness of the boxing judges and referees. More than once, boxers complained of the officials’ inadequacy by either hinting at or, in the case of newly signed Top Rank pro Michael Conlan, blatantly saying that world amateur boxing was corrupt.
Now, amateur boxing’s governing body wants to make some changes, starting with the suspension of all 36 of the referees and judges who officiated during the summer games.
AIBA announced the decision on Thursday, a day after the group held a three-day meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, to reflect on the Rio Olympics and work toward a better way of handling the tasks at Tokyo 2020.
“Rio 2016 was a watershed moment for AIBA,” President Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu said in a statement. “Boxing was in the spotlight for positive reasons, but occasionally also for the wrong ones. As an organization, we have pulled together and I am extremely happy with the work that has been done this week by highly experienced members of our commissions, whose expertise and council will allow AIBA and its community to develop further throughout this next Olympic cycle.”
The bitterness of this year’s Olympic cycle, however, has yet to wear off. In an interview published on Wednesday, Conlan, who lost a shot at the bantamweight medal after his controversial unanimous-decision loss to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, recalls the outcome as a “travesty.”
“Everything I said I would say again even though it was out of hand,” he said. “Because it was what I was feeling at the time. I spoke my true emotion and if I haven’t said it, I would be sitting here with a lot of regret. I stand by it still, and I mean what I said.”
Boxers in other weight classes also took issue with some of the decisions made during the Olympics. For example, when American light welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell lost to Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, Russell’s father said, “I didn’t have the money to buy the judges.”
By the end of the competition even the audience appeared to question the judges’ and referees’ decisions. The Rio Olympic arena filled with boos after Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit lost to Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko in the heavyweight gold medal bout.
The unprecedented controversy during the games led to the removal of a group of unnamed judges midway through the competition. Those judges remained suspended as part of the group of 36 on Thursday.
Before any of the suspended group might be reinstated, the AIBA said it will await the results of “a specific R&J investigation” that’s currently underway. The organization offered no further details into what exactly the investigation would entail or how long it’s scheduled to take.